Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Call for a Bigger Unity

I am so tired of the “my way is the only way” Christians belittling the rest of us who see things differently than they do. Stop, please. Just … stop!

The latest is an absolutely absurd blog post shared by the “Wesleyan Covenant Association” (W.C.A.), a group of United Methodists who doesn’t think gay people should be allowed to be married or ordained. The author's premise is that calls for unity are actually asking for disunity, although the blog's author does not clearly define what is meant by "unity." Here’s a link to the blog in question.

Here is the most telling statement - “It is not fair to ask a global church to sanction the progressive mores of a minority group largely centered in the U.S.”

When I was in elementary school, there was a kid in our class whose go-to response to life was “That’s not fair to me!” He said it any time anything at all didn’t go his way. It was annoying from an elementary kid; it is infuriating from an ordained United Methodist Elder.

But I don’t know if spiritual immaturity is actually what’s going on here. It may be, but it’s quite possible there is something else happening. And I have an idea about what it might be.

There is an illness that has infected the church, one I have dubbed “Obsessive Christianity Disorder.” The symptoms of this version of “O.C.D.” include an inability to validate anyone else’s perspective but your own and a quickness to condemn other ways of relating to God that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for you.

Happily there is a treatment! It’s very simple, found throughout the Bible, and something that Jesus himself modeled for us. It is humility.

Dear United Methodist Church, if we can foster the ability to “walk humbly with God,” we may very well be able to remain united as a denomination. If we cannot, we will splinter.

Dear Wesleyan Covenant Association, I humbly submit to you that no one will force you to marry a same-sex couple if you cannot find a reason to do so. No one will force you to vote “yes” for a gay person when they come up for ordination, if you cannot find a reason to do so. No one will ask anyone to “sanction the progressive mores” of anyone.

You do you. Carry on.

All the rest of us simply ask that you let us do us. All we ask is that you let us do ministry in a way that makes sense to us, in our contexts, with and among the people around us. And if that means marrying a same-sex couple so that God will indeed be at the center of that lifelong covenant commitment, then we want to be free to do so. And if that means we think a person is gifted for ministry and would be an amazing deacon or elder in our church, then we want to be free to vote for them without taking into consideration the gender of the people they are romantically attracted to.

Again, no one will force you to include persons you find morally objectionable in your worldview. You can say “No” to all the gay couples you want. You can vote “No” on all the gay ordination candidates you want. That will not change. I absolutely trust you in your ministry, when you say that is the best way for you to focus on the mission of the church. I do not agree with you, but I trust you that it is right for you.

I am just asking you to trust me in the same way by removing the denominational restrictions that make my ministry so difficult.

Finally, let me add this. The blog I read today, speculating about the possibility of a UMC compromise, includes this observation: “One pastor would be teaching that the practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage are unbiblical and therefore incompatible with Christian teaching, while another UM pastor, just miles away, would be teaching the practice of homosexuality is a good gift from God and same-sex marriages should be celebrated.”

Right. And …? I am unclear as to why this is a bad thing. In fact, is it not a strength of our connection, and a reason to work for unity? I am aware of several pastors close by me who have a “traditional marriage only” viewpoint. (By the way, icymi I have a “marriage equality for all people” viewpoint.)

Does it not make a whole lot of sense that, if someone in my congregation cannot abide marriage equality, I would be able to recommend to them a great pastor and colleague down the street that I know shares their view? And vice versa? Isn’t that what Christian unity really ought to be?

Further, I believe that denying a couple their marriage vows because they are the same gender is oppressive and unjust. My colleague down the road does not. Only if we remain connected, unified as the church, would my colleague down the road be able to send a same-sex couple to me to be married. Does that make us uncomfortable? Perhaps. But who promised anyone that following Jesus would be comfortable?

The truth is that ministry context is already taken into consideration when appointments are made in the UMC. District Superintendents and Bishops already know where individual pastors and individual congregations are on the theological spectrum. So appointment making really would not change all that much; we would just be more honest about it.

For me the bottom line is this – The Christians who claim their way of following Jesus is the only possible way to do so are just plain wrong. “Their way” is just one way among many ways to follow Jesus all around the world. I certainly do not believe that my relationship with Jesus is the only possible way for anyone to be in relationship with Jesus. So why does anyone feel that way?

I hope our definition of “unity” is not as small as this. I hope our definition of “unity” finds its source in Christ, not in us. I hereby call for a bigger unity, and I hope we who follow Jesus truly believe the Bible when it says that “all are one in Christ,” and nothing we do can change that.


Anonymous said...

Well the truth of the matter is that gay people should not be allowed to be married or ordained! That is the Word of God. The problem is with you and others like you Andy. You are misleading people and perverting the Scriptures. Let's face it, you are lost and those who follow you are lost too, like the blind leading the blind. Jesus said they will both fall into the ditch. Have you ever considered another profession? I hope you do because you are not a Minister of God. Do your flock a favor and quit! You are a disgrace to the calling.

Anonymous said...

Well the truth of the matter is that gay people should be allowed to be married or ordained! That is the Word of God. The blessing resides with you and others like you Andy. You are leading people and shining a light on the Scriptures. Let's face it, you are beautiful and those who follow you are beautiful too, like the enlightened leading the enlightened. Jesus said they will both enter into the Kingdom of God. Have you ever considered another profession? I hope you don’t because you are a Minister of God. Do your flock a favor and keep on keepin’ on. You are a blessing to the calling.

Mama Edna said...

This member of your flock appreciates your perspectives. Keep on keepin' on.

Anonymous said...

W-O-W! Well said, Andy!! I got pretty emotional reading that and I'm not even gay (I don't think ). Why? Because that that kind of stripped down, open-minded and honest plea feels so much like the kind of love Our Savior bestowed upon us that I got all teary remembering how powerful true acceptance can be!!! Thanks for once again showing us how a Christian handles situations like this when they arise. And especially, for continuing to speak about life the way you do...even though it's gotta be tough sometimes. I know there are people out there who disagree, but I'm so glad you're here for those of us who don't!!!! ��

Lisa Brown said...

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5)